Over the past year, the phrase “building a platform” has become almost synonymous with blogging and other various forms of social media. Much of this has to do with Michael Hyatt’s book Platform. Now, I’ve written extensively about the benefits of the book here on the blog. And I even went to the inaugural Platform Conference. But a tweet a few weeks ago by Timmy Brister confirmed something I’ve been worried about for some time.
Personal observation: some of the most successful bloggers turn authors I know are least conscientious about building their “platform”.
— Tim Brister (@timmybrister) May 8, 2013
Before discussing what I believe is a very real danger associated with this new platform phenomenon, let me preface my statements by saying this is not a strict dichotomy. Nor am I downplaying ambition.
But building a platform for the sake of having a platform is not at all how we as Christians should operate. When you hold to a Christian worldview, everything you do should be shaped by gospel ambition, not personal gain.
My fear with “platforming” (yes, I’m making up verbs), is that we are seeing the tools and tactics available to us as a way for us to secure personal gain and professional fame. We are wanting to become the next Christian superstar author or pastor so we drop some serious coin on conferences or technology or the next big thing. We are trying to become someone we aren’t, and, even worse, someone God did not intend us to be.
The whole idea of platforming becomes extremely valuable when followed tactically. The danger lies in doing it attitudinally.
Over the past year, I’ve met dozens of people looking to launch overly ambitious plans to become an author or speaker. I can probably count on one hand the number who were doing it out of response to God opening doors in their life where their only choice was to walk through to this next step in their lives that God had placed in from of them. The rest were, more or less, manufacturing the will of God to suit selfish or jaded dreams.
A frequent response I’ve received is that they are looking to increase their visibility to help share their message or “the message God had given them” with a greater audience. But when I look to Scripture, I see no positive examples of that line of reasoning. What I see instead is God constantly using small instances in the lives of people to prepare them for when HE decides they are going to breakout. We typically don’t “make our own luck.”
If we look to contemporary pastoral examples, David Platt and Francis Chan come to mind. So do Tim Keller and John Piper. All four were relatively unknown to a national audience until they had a moment of breakout. Piper and Chan could be traced for the most part to the Passion Conferences, Platt to launching Secret Church, and Keller to the release of The Reason for God. In every case, to the best of my knowledge, none were actively seeking to be breakout sensations. God moved them into that role after years—get that: YEARS—of steady obedience.
They didn’t start a blog or go to conferences on how to write posts that get 100,000 pageviews. And they surely didn’t get there because of some SEO strategy, no matter what others may claim. They were faithful in the small things. And GOD turned those small things in the huge things.
So why do I talk so highly of the book? Why did I go to the conference? Because from a tactical standpoint, there is no better tool available on the market.
Tactical platforming enhances who you already are. It lets you become more effective online. It’s like finding a method of Bible study that helps you learn Scripture better. Or a new prayer method. We subconsciously look for better ways to do hundreds of menial tasks every day. Who among us hasn’t tried to beat his previous time of mowing the yard? Or washing dishes?
We want to be better at what we do, and the tactics behind platforming do just that. They make you and me better bloggers. They enhance who we already are. But they won’t change us into something we are not.
Platt, Keller, Piper, and Chan didn’t set out to be these awesome speakers or authors. They simply worked hard at crafting better sermons, shepherding their flocks more, and furiously pursuing God. The rest just happened.
So like anything else you do in life, check your heart when it comes to platforming. If you’re looking to become better at what you already do or wanting to learn the basics, that’s great. But if you’re looking to become a breakout star through your own ambition and not the leading of the Holy Spirit, beware.